Is it grammatical to use the phrase "bien entendu" in the English sense of "properly understood?" For example:

"Even though the sun is not moving relative to earth, there is a sense in which it is true that the sun is setting, bien entendu."

I have encountered this phrase several times, but the more standard French usage seems to make "bien entendu" closer to the English phrase, "Of course" than "properly understood." Is this usage idiomatically incorrect, or just uncommon?


In this sentence, bien entendu means “of course”. This is an idiom in French. Synonyms include bien sûr and évidemment.

Like in English, bien entendu can mean either “this is obvious” or “this should be obvious”. Etymologically, I think it derives from “let this be understood between us” (entendre meant “understand” in classical French; this meaning has mostly died out to “hear” in modern French outside a few idioms).

In principle, bien entendu could be short for j'ai bien entendu, meaning “I heard you”. But it wouldn't be used (unlike e.g. the similar construction bien compris), because it would be interpreted as the idiom meaning “of course”.

  • 3
    Je ne dirais pas que le sens comprendre du verbe entendre est mourant. Très souvent il est implicite: quand je dis entendu, je veux dire que j'ai aussi compris. – mouviciel Oct 17 '14 at 8:03

"Bien entendu" is sometime used to say "properly understood" but it seems to me that it is not commonly used. You would rather ear "Bien compris".

You would often ear "bien entendu" used as "properly understood" in films, like military / or aircraft stuffs. For example, a airplane pilote would say "Bien entendu" as an anwser to a radio order, like "Loud and clear" and "Roger that" in English.

The most commonly used meaning of "Bien entendu" is "Of course" however.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.